Optional Practical Services (OPT)

Optional Practical Training for F-1 students is the USCIS program that provides permission for a student to work off campus in a job related to their area of study. Some basic information:

  • An F-1 student is eligible for a MAXIMUM OF 12 MONTHS of OPT.
  • Students in English language training are not eligible for OPT.
  • While on optional practical training, the former student must still report address changes and employment information to Ashland University.
  • OPT is available to students who have been enrolled on a full-time basis in F-1 status for at least nine months.
  • Optional practical training is available in the following cases:
    1. Part-time or full-time during the student's annual vacation and at other times when school is not in session if the student intends to register for the next term of the session
    2. Part-time while school is in session
    3. Full-time after completion of the course of study
  • Students may apply for OPT up to 90 days prior to completion of studies or up to 60 days after (We recommend that you apply at the beginning of your last semester.) Authorization to engage in OPT is automatically terminated when the student transfers to another school or begins study at another educational level.


Make an appointment with Scott Parillo in ISS, and bring the following items:

  • Your present I-20.
  • Your passport & I-94 card (either in passport or printed from online)
  • Two recent passport-style photos. The passport photos cannot be more than 6 months old, and must be 2" x 2" in size. If you try to submit a photo that does not meet these requirements, it can be rejected and delay your application.
  • Check for $410 made payable to U.S Department of Homeland Security.
  • Your Social Security Number.

During this meeting you will complete the application. In about three weeks the USCIS will send confirmation that the application has been received. The Employment Authorization Card (EAD) should be received in about eight to twelve weeks after that.

Passport Photographs

Passport photos must be 2" x 2" and not more than six months old.
Passport photos can be taken in Ashland while you wait at the following places:

  • CVS Pharmacy, 418 East Main Street, Ashland, Tel: 419-289-9643
  • Gerald's Studio, 141 E. Main Street, Ashland, Tel: 419-281-0551
  • Drug Mart, 1631 Claremont Avenue, Ashland, Tel: 419-281-7880
  • Spectrum Photo Lab, 625 Claremont Avenue, Ashland, Tel: 419-289-6481 (closest to the university, beside Domino's Pizza)


  • A student may not legally begin working until he/she has been issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) by USCIS (even if your card is late in arriving!). You may, however, begin looking for work. Visit the Career Development office if you need help with your resume, interview skills or job-hunting. 
  • Once the application is submitted or the EAD card issued, travel outside of the country is not prohibited. However, an immigration officer may refuse you reentry if you do not have a job to return to.
  • The post office will not forward your EAD card to a new address, and since students frequently move after graduation, we recommend that you use the ISS office as your address on the application.
  • Students making a trip outside of the United States while on practical training after graduation will need a signature from a DSO in the ISS Office on their I-20 within the last six months for re-entry into the U.S.
  • If you have received your EAD card and have a job, you may leave the U.S., but when returning should present a letter of employment from the present employer. 
  • You have until the end of the practical training period marked on the EAD, plus 60 days, to stay in the U.S if you have not applied for a change of status to another valid visa. Other visas could be an H or B visa (you cannot work on a B visa).
  • While you are on OPT, health insurance is still available through Ashland University. Contact the ISS office for information. Any current insurance policies expire on August 12th of each year. It is your responsibility to make sure that you have health insurance.
  • Authorization to engage in OPT is automatically terminated if you transfer to another school or begins study at another educational level.
  • While on OPT, you are still on an F-1 visa with Ashland University. Therefore, you must notify our office of any address or employment changes. In other words, let us know where you are and what you are doing!
  • If you need to renew your driver's license, you will need to have the EAD card with you so that the expiry date of your license can be matched to the expiry date on the EAD card. They will not be able to renew the license until you have the card to show them. Otherwise, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles will only be able to renew the license up to the "complete date" on the I-20. The driver's license cannot be renewed beyond the expiry date on the EAD card, even though you do not have to leave the country for another 60 days.
  • Once your employment period begins, you will have 90 days to get a job (and report this information to ISS). After the 90 days, you must leave the country or switch to another status.
  • If you lose your job, you can use up any of the days leftover of the 90 days to look for a new job. For example, if you found a job 30 days after the start of your OPT card, then you can have another 60 days to find another job.